Fall Arts: Act Your Age!
OCCUPATION: Director, Richard Hugo House
EVENT: In October, the literary center Richard Hugo House will have been at its Capitol Hill location for two years. In those two years, aside from a major remodel, the center has sponsored marathon events like the Gertrude Stein-a-Thon, offered workshops from diverse writers, and conducted thematic "inquiries" that function as community forums. This fall's inquiry is titled "Disappearances," and will occur Sat Oct 7 from 10 am-10 pm, and Sun Oct 8 from 10 am-6:30 pm. The center will be decked out with visual arts, music, videos, and, of course, readings. Visiting writers include the poet Eavan Boland, Li-Young, and Alicia Partnoy.
So, the Hugo House just received a $180,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. What're you going to do with all that money?
We did receive a gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and we're using it to connect writers to communities. Our programs include financial support for some practicing writers, writing studios for young writers at different sites around the city, maintaining the library and writer's room, theater venues and performances, and lots of other cool things.
The Hugo House was created around writing as a thread in the fabric of community. How has this idea played out practically at the Hugo House so far? Have you seen evidence of a wider-ranging community effect? How have you reached out to individuals or smaller groups to encompass them?
So, let's say you care about writing poems and stories just like my friend Ariana does. She's 12 and hangs out at the house. There, she meets other writers like Charles Mudede or Joan Fiset, and realizes that they are people with jobs and lives as writers. It's inspiring. For the rest of us, it's inspiring to hear Ariana practice her violin in the cafe and read her stories. She writes obsessively about "Miss Tidy," a character whom I really admire. "Ariana," I said to her the other day, "I want to read more about Miss Tidy. Did you make up any new ones yet?" She's working on it. I love how a community thrives on these personal, seemingly small moments and interactions. After all, that's how writing works too. We do reach out to lots of groups. We set aside money for people who come in with good ideas so we can constantly have new and fresh things happening.
How is Hugo House dealing with its awkward youth?
We are definitely in our pre-teen years. We're seeing what it's like to grow up, and sometimes, as an organization, we want to rebel against it. We don't always want to toe the traditional line or do things the way other organizations do. We're idealistic, enthusiastic, open-minded, and at the same time, we are enjoying our romp through childhood. Hopefully, our youth has encouraged more people to come in and give us advice, join our programs, become part of a spirited, funky, and smart place. When we become a teenager, we'll be more cautious perhaps. We might be rehearsing, then, for adulthood.